- Ernst Josephson
- 14 juillet
- signed and dated Ernst Josephson Paris. 1883. upper right
- oil on canvas
- 90 by 119cm., 35½ by 47in.
Sale: Nordén Auktioner, Stockholm, 17 May 1995, lot 102
Purchased at the above sale
Copenhagen, Scandinavian Art Exhibition, July 1883
Stockholm, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, 1923, no. 74
Stockholm, Ernst Josephson, 1943, no. 47
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Opponenterna av 1885. Utställning till sextioårsminnet av det första moderna genombrottet i svensk konst, 1945
Stockholm, Liljevachs Konsthall, Ernst Josephson, Retrospective Exhibition, 1951, no. 142
Stockholm, Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Ernst Josephson, 1991
Boras, Boras Konstmuseum, Ernst Josephson, 1992, no. 42
Carl Rupert Nyblom, in Post- och inrikestidningar, 1883
Karl Warburg, in Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning, 1883
Richard Kauffmann, in Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning, 1883
Karl Wåhlin, 'Ernst Josephson 1851-1906', in Misseteckning, II, Stockholm, 1912, p. 74, cited
Georg Pauli, Ernst Josephson, Stockholm, 1914, pp. 30-31
Georg Pauli, Opponenterna, Stockholm, 1927, p. 12
Sixten Strömbom, in Konstnärsförbundets Historia, Stockholm, 1945, p. 166, discussed
Per-Olof Zennström, Ernst Josephson, Stockholm, 1946, p. 134
Josef Paul Hodin & F.I. Percy, Ernst Josephson, Malningar ur privata samlingar, exh. cat., Galerie St. Lucas, Stockholm, 1942, p. 28, no. 56
Erik Blomberg, Ernst Josephson. Hans liv, Stockholm, 1951, p. 311-313, cited & illustrated
Erik Blomberg, Ernst Josephsons konst, Stockholm, 1956, p. 149-50 cited & illustrated
Paintings and Drawings by Ernst Josephson, 1851-1906, exh. cat., Portland, San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York, 1964-65, p. 22, cited
Per-Olof Zennström, Ernst Josephson, Malmo, 1978, p. 93-95, cited & illustrated
Ingrid Mesterton et al., Ernst Josephson (1851-1906), Bilder und Zeichnungen, exh. cat., Bonn & Bochum, 1979, listed under 1883
Henri Usselman, '14 juillet d'Ernst Josephson', in Konsthistorisk tidskrift, 1983, pp. 75-82, discussed
Painted with a realist’s compassionate eye for la vie populaire of Paris, the present work depicts a group of six Italian itinerant entertainers. Either setting out or returning from the celebrations of Bastille day, the group is anchored around the veritable homme-orchestre in the centre bearing accordeon (played left-handed) and drum kit on his back, causing him to learn forward slightly under the weight and turning to look at something outside of the composition. Turning backwards, the boy leading the group is a typically Parisian urban figure, recalling Gavroche of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. The tricolor flags flying from the buildings are echoed in the red-white-blue dress of several of the figures. Close inspection suggests the green of an Italian tricolor flying next to the French flag above the musician's cymbals; both the artist and his subjects being foreigners drawn into the 14 July celebrations. Reflecting Josephson's interest in their psychology, in the midst of the celebrations each figure is essentially absorbed in their own thoughts. The artist has captured them with a sensitivity which underscores his own democratic and humanitarian beliefs.
Bastille Day itself was a new subject in painting, having only been instituted as France's national day in 1880. In that year Jean Béraud commemorated the subject with his Marseillaise. Famously Claude Monet's Rue Montorgueil of 1878 shows a profusion of streaming tricolours, however the patriotic celebrations of that year were held on 30 June, not 14 July.
As identified by fellow artist Georg Pauli, the setting is the balcony outside Josephson’s studio at 22 Rue Monsieur le Prince in the 6th arrondissement. The same background is visible in other works, including Josephson’s portrait of the artist Louise Breslau. Josephson's friend the Finnish sculptor Ville Vallgren noted that this had been Gustave Courbet's studio, and indeed that the artist was often stopped in the street and told that he looked just like Courbet.
Born into a Jewish family in Stockholm, Josephson trained in his home city and then briefly in Paris under Jean-Léon Gérôme in 1874. After further travels abroad, the artist settled in Paris in 1879. Driven there partly by the prevailing conservatism of the art world back home, Josephson also sought renewal in the artistic capital. He arguably spoke for émigré artists more generally in his poem Skål för Paris (‘Cheers for Paris’):
‘And so we stand on foreign soil at the wellspring of the new art,
to pour some of its fresh water into our jars
to bring home to our mother, our country’
Making his début at the Paris Salon of 1879 with the Old Testament subject David before Saul, Josephson’s breakthrough came with the well-received portrait of Gottfrid Renholm of 1880 (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm). The portrait suggests the influence of Ingres and Raphael. The critic Renholm was a friend of the artist, and praised him as the only Scandinavian painter who came close to Manet. Inspired by Rembrandt, after whom he made numerous copies, Josephson also admired Velasquez, as did Manet. The figures in the present work are recognisably Manet-esque, from La Chanteuse des rues (MFA, Boston) to Le Vieux musicien (fig. 1)
In 1881, two years before painting the present work, Josephson travelled with fellow Swedish artist Anders Zorn to Spain. The most significant work to come from the journey was Spanish Blacksmiths, of which the larger version is now in the Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo. Direct and uncompromising in its realism, the composition of three gitanos was rejected from the Paris Salon of 1882. Undeterred, Josephson had the audacity to submit the work a second time in 1883, and was again met with rejection. The present work was therefore the only painting he exhibited at the Salon that year.
Dogged by personal tragedies and artistic setbacks, Josephson’s life and art were profoundly shaken by a dramatic nervous breakdown while staying on the Ile de Bréhat in Brittany in 1888. Spiritual experiments and séances there brought about an inner torment and forced his return to Stockholm. From there Josephson walked the eighty kilometres to Uppsala in a state of confusion, and was admitted into a mental hospital. A period of prodigious artistic output ensued, as Josephson’s drawings took on a visionary character shaped by his mental illness.